Critical pit stop made difference for Edwards

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Carl Edwards’ win in today’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway was set up by an important pit stop at Lap 238.

Edwards was behind leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. when the caution flag came out for a Lap 236 crash involving David Gilliland. But on pit road just two laps later, Edwards managed to beat everyone else out while Earnhardt was blocked as he was leaving by Casey Mears.

He wouldn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the race.

“[Earnhardt] must have had the timing lines figured out really well, because I was at the max speed that I could go and he shot up there,” Edwards recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh man, I can’t go any faster. I’m gonna get a penalty.’ And Casey was up there and I thought, ‘I’m not exactly sure how this is gonna work out,’ and he turned left. Dale could have run me up into the wall and spun Casey out, and I could tell he thought about it. I think he did because there was that little pause and I thought, ‘He’s gonna do it.'”

“And then he stood on the brakes and kept from tearing all the cars up, so that had to be very difficult for him because I think we all knew right then that that could be the race. I’d like to think I was gonna pass him anyway, but I was a little nervous.”

While Edwards certainly appreciated Earnhardt not causing a mess on pit road, the latter was still, in his words, “frustrated” about a potential victory going by the boards.

“I was on the inside of [Edwards] on pit road and I think I could have beat him off, but [Mears] was trying to get in his stall and I had to lift for that,” said Earnhardt, who finished fifth after leading 47 laps on the afternoon. “And I knew right then…My opportunity to win the race was right there.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.